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Posts published in “Day: November 14, 2017”

Notes . . .

notes

David Brooks (of the New York Times) has been on a streak for most of this year with his columns looking into what amount to political motivations - why people do what they do, politically. Sometimes they miss or overreach, but sometimes they hit home solidly. In today's column, for example, he describes neatly the same reasons I thought last weekend's Saturday Night Live sketch on Roy Moore (albeit it that some of it was funny) was only helping Moore. Brooks didn't mention that point specifically, but he didn't have to; the extrapolation doesn't run very far:

The siege mentality starts with a sense of collective victimhood. It’s not just that our group has opponents. The whole “culture” or the whole world is irredeemably hostile.

From this flows a deep sense of pessimism. Things are bad now. Our enemies are growing stronger. And things are about to get worse. The world our children inherit will be horrific. The siege mentality floats on apocalyptic fear.

SNL was just another attack on "us" - leading to the response of, "We'll show them." It's not very productive politics, but it's what we have at the moment ...

Oregon Democrats may be on the verge of their supermajority in the House at Salem. The second Republican in the last month or so has quit the House to take a job leading a lobbying organization, the Oregonian reports. Today's is Jodi Hack of Salem; last month it was Mark Johnson of Hood River. And not long before that, John Huffman of The Dalles departed with the prospect of a job in the Trump Administration. The Johnson seat in particular is highly likely to go Democratic; Johnson has held it because of personal qualities and popularity, not any local partisan advantages. And if 2018 is a Democratic wave year, don't be surprised if one or both of the other seats, albeit in traditionally Republican areas, fall to the Democrats as well ...
 

Thanks for your service

jones

When I was getting ready in August of 1969 to return home from my tour of duty in Vietnam, I bought some civilian clothes in Saigon. Word was that many people in the U.S. took unkindly to persons in military uniform.

When I mustered out at the Oakland Army Base, I tossed my fatigues and boots into a trash can, put on my civvies, and caught a plane to Twin Falls. Although I don’t recall anyone being hostile because of my Vietnam service, many returning vets did experience hostility. Things have changed.

I’m glad that people appreciate the service of men and women in uniform nowadays. It means a lot when you let them know you are thankful for their service. A couple of years ago, a highly respected judge from out of state who had served as a Marine at Khe Sanh, but rarely talked about it, told me, “Welcome home and thanks for your service.” I was genuinely touched.

But we should do more than just thanking veterans and active duty personnel for serving their country.

While we generally provide good medical treatment for their obvious physical injuries, the country can and should do much more to treat their less obvious injuries, such as PTSD, exposure to toxic substances, and the like. The high rates of suicide, substance abuse, and related problems are clear indicators that we are not living up to our responsibility to provide veterans and active duty personnel the mental health support and treatment they need and deserve. War is, as they say, hell and it takes a real toll on the psychological wellbeing of many of them.

We also owe it to the people who protect our nation to see that they receive proper treatment for ailments caused by exposure to toxic substances. After the Vietnam war, it was maddening to see the government deny treatment to returning veterans who suffered serious illnesses as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. Veterans of the first Gulf War and the war in Iraq received similar shabby treatment when they returned with strange symptoms related to exposure to dangerous substances. They deserved better.

The recent deaths of four servicemen in Niger points to another problem. Most Americans had little idea the U.S. had troops in harm’s way there. I believe that is partly because only a tiny minority of the population is exposed to serving this country in dangerous places. It is easy for the rest of us to put it out of our minds. There is not a culture anymore that expects everyone of military age to do some type of service to this great country. It hurts me to hear about service personnel doing 4, 5, and 6 tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some may thrive on it, but I’m sure it is a strain on many others, as well as their families.

When discussion started after Vietnam about an all-volunteer military, I had some misgivings. The idea of having greater professionalism and better pay made sense, but it seemed to me that we were going to get away from the idea that all citizens should have some skin in the game - that all young people should have the opportunity to serve their country in a meaningful way. When everyone is exposed to serving the country, I think we pay more attention to what the country is doing overseas. It certainly worked that way in the Vietnam era.

Now, the country comfortably goes about its normal life while a small minority of dedicated citizens regularly faces danger in foreign places, largely unacknowledged by the country until some of them are shipped home in body bags. Instead of just thanking our veterans and service personnel, maybe we, as a country, should start thinking about how we can all help to serve the country.
 

Degrees of proof

stapiluslogo1

“If these allegations are true, he must step aside.” So said Senate Majority Leader of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, thereby creating one of the great political trap doors of recent days. [Note: McConnell has since expanded his statement to say that Moore should drop out of the race.] What, after all, does it take to establish the predicate, that "these allegations are true"?

McConnell didn't say. That makes it easy, later on, to say the condition either had been met or had not, depending on how the story develops. This might be called an unusually flexible form of moral relativism.

Mitt Romney, the former presidential candidate who himself might be a contender (again, and in another state) for the Senate, had another take on the Moore situation. His was much blunter, and include no weaselly back doors: "Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside."

Among other things (such as making a good deal of ethical and logical sense), this is a formulation an attorney, or a judge, might appreciate and even expand upon.

In their world, consideration has to be given to evidentiary standards and burdens of proof - and you will notice the plurals. In a court setting, different standards apply in different instances. In civil cases, certain types of cases and proceedings turn on a Preponderance of the Evidence, or on Clear and Convincing Evidence or on Substantial Evidence. In many criminal cases, the extremely rigorous Beyond a Reasonable Doubt applies, but some court-approved actions can happen with Probable Cause or with Reasonable Belief and Reasonable Suspicion or even just Credible Evidence.

So what about a case like Moore's?

He has not been charged (in this case at least) with a criminal charge, and he's not even being sued civilly (though it's hard to rule that out for the future). The question here is whether he ought to be considered for one of the most important jobs in our government, which ought to mean that the standard of evidence needed to establish, let's say, a serious problem, should not be especially high.

Is he guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? That's probably not been clearly established, but no newspaper report alone reasonably could establish that.

Do we have something on the order of Substantial Evidence or Probable Cause? Clearly.

We have a number of people, on the record, who have argued that sexual harassment, of themselves as teenagers, did occur; and a great deal of corroborating evidence and testimony has been established alongside that. Moore has responded, and none of his responses have done anything to diminish the weight of that evidence against him.

There's not enough to convict Moore of a crime in a court of law. In the court of public opinion, with its lower standard of proof, among people willing to honestly weigh the evidence? Oh yeah.

Which is not a prediction, in today's political climate, that this is likely to happen.